No. 1441 19 November 2010

Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains bring Prosperity for the Dryland Poor

Agribusiness Development Meet Director General William Dar lights the lamp at the AERA conference at NAARM, Hyderabad as PK Joshi, GP Reddy and P Raghava Reddy look on.

“Creating strong public-private partnerships and involving a larger number of stakeholders creates a self-sustaining value chain with critical inputs reaching farmers in a timely manner and quality commodities reaching end users,” said Director General William Dar at the 18th Annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Research Association (AERA).
The theme of the conference is Value Chain of Agricultural Commodities and Their Role in Food Security and Poverty Alleviation, a theme “close to my heart and one that we at ICRISAT have been innovating on,” Dr Dar warmly stated.

As Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker, Dr Dar appropriately set the tone of the conference by elaborating on the theme and citing examples of ICRISAT’s successes in value chain enhancement, namely the Agri-Business Incubator, a pioneer in agri-business incubation in India; ICRISAT’s promotion of sweet sorghum with its multi-product potential as a viable crop for bio-ethanol production; and the project where small-scale sorghum and pearl millet farmers were successfully and profitably organized into Farmers’ Associations who were then linked to industrial end users.
Getting to the crux of his message, Dr Dar said, “Markets and institutions are critical to leverage the potential of agricultural growth for the benefit of small-scale producers.” He said that we need to ask ourselves how market-based food supply systems can be developed that offer economically sustainable levels of financial reward to all participants in the food chain, while providing safe, nutritious and affordable food to consumers.

Explaining ICRISAT’s new strategic plan and our inclusive market-oriented development approach, he said that the emergence from subsistence farming to market-oriented agriculture is a systemic change that will be the trend in the foreseeable future, and that special care must be taken to ensure that the poorest are enabled to participate in this changing environment, rather than being left behind.

Dr Dar delivers the keynote address.

The AERA conference, which started yesterday, will continue till 20 November, and will discuss papers on food grains, livestock and fisheries, and fruits and vegetables. The conference will also hold three special sessions – (a) Reshaping the Trajectory of Agricultural growth in Andhra Pradesh, (b) Manpower Planning and Agriculture, and (c) Exploring Development Pathways through Village Dynamic Studies.

The GT-IMPI team (Drs Cynthia Bantilan, P Parthasarathy Rao, V Kiresur, Uttam Kumar Deb, Naveen Singh and other Scientific Officers and Visiting Scientists) will organize the third special session, where participants will be exposed to the VDS and deliberate on options for analyzing these data towards addressing key issues for creating policy recommendations in the agriculture sector.
The AERA conference is an all-India annual event. This year it is being hosted by the National Academy for Agricultural Research Management (NAARM) in Hyderabad. Dignitaries attending the conference include Dr P Raghava Reddy, Vice-Chancellor of the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University; Dr PK Joshi, Director of NAARM; Dr Mruthyunjaya , President of AERA; Dr Ramesh Chand, Director of the National Center for Agriculture Policy Research; Dr PG Changappa, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Agricultural Studies, Bangalore; and Dr C Ramaswamy, former Vice-Chancellor of TNAU, Coimbatore.

Participants of the AERA conference at NAARM.

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HOPE project holds farmers’ sorghum field day in Ethiopia

The Harnessing Hope for Productivity Enhancements (HOPE) project in Ethiopia aims to increase dryland sorghum productivity in Western Hararge and North Wollo of Ethiopia. Sirinka Agricultural Research Centre (SARC) organized a farmers’ field day in Kobo, North Wollo Zone, Amhara State, Ethiopia on 12 November in collaboration with ICRISAT-ESA. 

Ninety-eight farmers (20% of whom were women), 7 Development Agents, 7 local experts in extension education, input supply, cooperative union and agronomy, 10 scientists and technicians (including Mr Yosef Ghawaryat, Director of Crops Research; and Mr Zinabu Legese, Director, SARC), Mary Mgonja and Patrick Audi from ICRISAT-ESA participated in the field day.
At the introductory meeting held in the Catholic Church hall before visiting on-farm PVS field trials, Mr Yosef, on behalf of Director SARC, highlighted the great potential that the HOPE project has in improving sorghum productivity and food security in North Wollo Zone. He also highlighted the significance of building strong partnerships for identification and delivery of suitable technologies.

Mary Mgonja, having driven 500 km from Addis Ababa to Kobo on the eve of the field day, said that she was highly impressed by the 350 km continuous stretch of mainly brown and chalky white sorghum fields from Debre-Sina to Kobo. She also noted that the sorghum cultivars grown were local and that the HOPE project has the opportunity to deliver high yielding, earlier maturing (to counteract the constraint of frequent drought) and Striga resistant varieties with farmer preferred cooking and market qualities. 

The 98 farmers were split into 5 groups (3 male groups, one mixed group, one female group) for participatory variety selection (PVS). Of the 9 varieties in the PVS trial, 3 were selected as most preferred varieties because they produced high yields. Additionally, Misikr was preferred for good food qualities especially for making injera, while Girana-1 and Hormat/ICSV 1112 BF were preferred for good brewing qualities and for Striga resistance, respectively.

Following the PVS, farmers participated in blind culinary taste evaluation of injera (the most important staple food in Ethiopia made from sorghum and/or teff) made from various percentages of sorghum flour. Boiled sorghum and porridge were also prepared. The most preferred variety for injera, boiled sorghum and porridge was Misikr, and farmers were excited with the prospects of accessing the seeds of the preferred varieties for sowing in the next season. The enthusiasm and expectations of the farmers after the field day was heartening.
In conclusion, improved sorghum varieties that are high yielding, have good cooking qualities for injera, are resistant to Striga and are early maturing have the greatest probability for adoption by the farmers in Kobo.

(L) Participants of the farmers’ sorghum field day, (R) tasting products made with sorghum flour.

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ICRISAT germplasm for Svalbard Global Seed Vault

(L) The third ICRISAT shipment at Svalbard, (R) inside the chamber.

As part of the agreement between ICRISAT and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center, Norway (earlier known as Nordic Gene Bank), ICRISAT is committed to the transfer of duplicate seed samples of the 111,000 in-trust germplasm accessions to the Seed Vault in a 5-year schedule.

Accordingly, in 2008 and 2009 we deposited seed samples of 20,000 and 23,000 accessions, respectively, to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This November, we shipped seed samples of another 23,000 accessions for the scheduled depositions to the vault. We have received confirmation that the seed samples have arrived safely at the final destination and were shifted to the designated vault chambers. The passport and conservation information on these accessions was successfully uploaded to the public data portal at

With these depositions, the total number of duplicate samples of ICRISAT germplasm at the seed vault increased to 66,000 representing sorghum (21,000), pearl millet (13,580), chickpea (10,005), pigeonpea (8,000), groundnut (6,015), finger millet (4,400), foxtail millet (1,000), proso millet (600), little millet (400), kodo millet (500) and barnyard millet (500). Another 55,000 samples are due for deposition in the coming two years. Thus, ICRISAT is fulfilling its role of contributing to the preservation of global agricultural biodiversity for future generations.

ICRISAT gratefully acknowledges the support from the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), the Nordic Genetic Resources Center and the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), India in this important endeavor.

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Molecular markers for rapid crop improvement

“New science tools such as molecular markers will be very useful to accelerate crop productivity,” said Director General William Dar at the inaugural session of the 8th ICRISAT-CEG course on Application of Molecular Markers in Crop Improvement, which started on 8 November at Patancheru.

Dr Dar said that gains from conventional plant breeding cannot meet future food demands and that there was a need for a major change in yield improvement. “ICRISAT firmly believes in the potential of biotechnology to enhance the speed, precision, efficiency and value addition of its crop improvement efforts, especially in addressing complex traits that have remained intransigent to conventional breeding,” he added.

The Director General said that genomics has been providing breeders with new tools and novel approaches to perform their tasks with precision such as applications of molecular markers in breeding through marker-assisted selection (MAS).

A total of forty participants including 21 from India and 19 participants from 12 Asian/African countries are participating in this two week interactive training course.

Participants of the molecular markers course at Patancheru.

GTL-Biotechnology, Oscar Riera-Lizarazu welcomed the gathering and urged the participants to exploit this training to the maximum and learn as much as possible from this course.

Course Coordinator Rajeev Varshney gave a brief outline of the course and emphasized the importance of such capacity building exercises. Rex Navarro, Global Leader (Acting), Knowledge Management and Sharing, outlined the activities of KMS and the importance of knowledge management and sharing.

Rajeev Varshney thanked the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Generation Challenge Programme for financial support towards organization of the course. He expressed his gratitude to Dr Dar, DDG-R Dave Hoisington, the Management Group and senior colleagues for their support for successfully conducting eight such courses over the last three years.
With the completion of this course, ICRISAT will have successfully imparted training on application of molecular markers in crop improvement to 200 participants representing 25 ICAR institutes, 5 Government of India and CSIR institutes, 32 state agricultural universities, 11 regional research stations, 11 small seed companies, 32 research foundations, research institutes and institutes from Asian/southern African countries. The total training covered 25 crops and had representation from 24 Asian/African countries.

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ICRISAT posters bag awards at millet seminar

Two posters presented by ICRISAT scientists received praise at the National Seminar on Millets, held on 12 and 13 November at the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad.
The poster titled Sorghum biofortification for combating micronutrient malnutrition by A Ashok Kumar, Belum VS Reddy, KL Sahrawat, HD Upadhyaya, P Parthasarathy Rao, B Ramaiah and P Sanjana Reddy was awarded second prize, and the poster Identification of mid-season moisture stress tolerant sweet sorghum material by P Srinivasa Rao, P Sanjana Reddy, K Lavakusa Rao, Belum VS Reddy and Serge Bracconnier was awarded a commendation certificate.

The 2-day National Seminar on Research and Development in Millets – Present Status and Future Strategies was organized by the Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR), Hyderabad in collaboration with the Directorate of Millet Development, Jaipur, and the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad.

Ashok Kumar with the poster that won a prize.

Belum VS Reddy, RP Thakur, P Parthasarathy Rao and P Srinivasa Rao represented ICRISAT at the seminar. P Parthasarathy Rao contributed a paper Linking farmers with millet markets for the souvenir released on the occasion and made an oral presentation on the same. RP Thakur served as a member of the jury for poster evaluation, co-chaired the plenary session, and along with Belum Reddy contributed to the panel discussion.

On this occasion NutriPlus Knowledge Center, Agri-Science Park@ICRISAT showcased the value added food products developed from pearl millet as well as products developed from grain sorghum and sweet sorghum syrup, at the ICRISAT exhibition stall. The products were well appreciated by the delegates. A Poshadri, NutriPlus; B Ramaiah, Sorghum breeding; and AS Rao, Pearl Millet breeding were part of the ICRISAT team that attended the seminar and exhibition.

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ICRISAT at Livelihoods India Conference

ICRISAT participated in the Livelihoods India conference, organized by ACCESS Development Services together with Ford Foundation, Oxfam India, UNDP, Citibank, IFAD and others on 17 and 18 November at InterContinental Eros hotel, New Delhi.

The central theme of the Livelihoods India Conference was Agriculture-based Livelihoods, Opportunities and Potential. More than 250 participants representing various organizations participated.

During the inaugural session, Mr Vipin Sharma, CEO, ACCESS Development Services, highlighted the importance of the conference, which was being held for the first time following inputs from the micro-finance conference that they have been holding every year. Mr Steven Solnick, Representative, Ford Foundation, New Delhi delivered the inaugural address. The inaugural session was followed by the technical scene setting session with five panelists under the chairmanship of Dr YC Nanda, Chairman, Agriculture Finance Corporation. 

Dr Wani speaks at the conference.

During the scene setting session, SP Wani, representing Director General William Dar, made a presentation on Agriculture-based livelihoods: Challenges faced by smallholder farmers highlighting the importance of rainfed agriculture for improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and the need for greater investment in rainfed agricultural research and development activities. 
During the presentation, Dr Wani highlighted integrated watershed management as an entry point for improving livelihoods, indicating the need to take a holistic approach to improving livelihoods. He spoke about how the actions and strategies adopted by various actors affect the access to the resources upon which livelihoods in rural areas are dependent. 

Wani also highlighted the importance of institutions, policies and social relations in improving livelihoods, the sustainable livelihoods concept and the need for convergence for improving livelihoods. 

After the scene setting session, there were breakaway sessions on topics such as Producer Collective and Value Chains, Women in Agriculture, Agriculture Extension: New generation paradigms. The plenary session was on National Rural Livelihoods Mission, Private Sector and Agriculture Value Chains and convergence of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme with agriculture programs.

ICRISAT’s contributions were well appreciated by the participants.

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